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Close the information gap

What the gap is and considerations for connecting workers and enterprise info.

As you think more about your mobile infrastructure, it becomes clear that the only reason to have one at all is to close the gap between your mobile workers and the corporate information they need to be effective as they can be in their work. This tip, which is excerpted from InformIT, discusses this information gap, and the things you need to close that gap. If your mobile workers aren't tied in the way they need to be, they can't do their jobs the way they want, and you lose.


The critical information your mobile workers need may belong to enterprise applications you're already using. You need to understand which information can be obtained from which applications, and how it can all be integrated to provide a meta-application tailored for the mobile workforce.

Enterprise data
Mobile workers need access to several classes of applications that manage information:

    Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
    Supply chain management (SCM)
    Customer relationship management (CRM)
    Knowledge management (KM)
    Email

You need to know which applications hold the information required by your mobile workers.

Enterprise application integration (EAI) also plays a role in how you mobilize your enterprise. You may already be integrating several of your applications using EAI middleware. In this case, you might use this same middleware to extract the data needed by mobile workers.

Synchronization
In many cases, the information your users need can be pre-loaded on the portable computing device. This is true for static information that doesn't change throughout the day—or in cases where it doesn't matter if the user gets a version of the information that's slightly out of date.

Users may also perform updates throughout the day and then synchronize with enterprise applications later. This works well when it's important to capture the information immediately, but there's no urgency to share it with the rest of the company.

In these cases, synchronization is important. Synchronization can occur over a fixed-line connection—for example, over the Internet or on the company LAN. It can also occur over a wireless connection when the quantity of data exchanged is relatively small. For example, if a mobile professional is working in an area where there is little or no network coverage, he or she can capture data on the device and then synchronize from a place where there is adequate network coverage.

Security
The mobile enterprise comes with a new set of vulnerabilities. Portable computing devices are lost and stolen more easily than desktop computers. Any sensitive data on those devices has to be encrypted. Some mechanism should be in place to allow only authorized users to access the device.

You can't control all use of portable computing devices—and a number of computer viruses already target these kinds of small computers. For these reasons, you should use virus-protection software.

Some of the other vulnerabilities are similar to those you encounter when setting up a way for employees to work from home. That is, you have to be concerned with eavesdropping and unauthorized access to applications behind the company firewall.

You need to think through security from the beginning. Take a new look at your company's security policy and update it for this effort. Consider vulnerabilities, think about the value of what you're protecting, and imagine the motivations of potential intruders. Apply the appropriate set of countermeasures to protect your company's intellectual capital.


To read the entire article from which this tip comes, click over to InformIT. No registration, no muss, no fuss. Just information you can use.


This was last published in August 2003

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